Tennis world number one Roger Federer, seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher and top golfer Tiger Woods are all in the running for a third Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award in April.
Tennis grand slam champions Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova, and swimmer Laure Manaudou, who won four gold medals at the 2006 European swimming championships, are among the candidates for the Sportswoman of the Year Award.
The nominees in the seven categories were announced on Tuesday and the winners will be chosen by the members of the 43-strong Laureus World Sports Academy.
They will make public their decisions in the eighth edition of the annual event at a televised ceremony in Barcelona on April 2.
"It has been a great year for sport and the Academy are going to find it extremely difficult to decide who to vote for as winners," Academy chairman Edwin Moses said
Another hotly contested category will be the Team of the Year Award where the All Blacks rugby team, Europe's Ryder Cup side, Renault's Formula One team, and Spain's Basketball World Cup winners go head-to-head.
From soccer, Italy's World Cup winners and the host city's European and Spanish Champions Barcelona, complete the nominees in this section.
Dutch wheelchair tennis champion Esther Vergeer, winner of the Laureus Disability Award in 2002, has been nominated for the fourth time after an unbeaten 2006.
Other awards include Breakthrough of the Year, Comeback of the Year, and Action Sportsperson of the Year.
For the latter, Spanish kiteboarder Gisela Pulido is the youngest ever nominee aged 12.
The nominees have been selected by 1068 members of the awards' media selection panel, from 128 countries.