Button won six of the season's first seven grands prix and held on to his lead to become Britain's 10th F1 world champion, while on two wheels Cavendish became the first Briton to win six stages in one Tour de France.
Sheffield's Ennis swept aside the opposition to win the heptathlon at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, where Idowu finally realised his full potential by taking triple jump gold.
Another first-time world champion was 15-year-old Daley, who won the 10m platform event in Rome, while Tweddle tumbled her way to World Championship gold in the floor event at London's O2 Arena.
Tennis star Murray continued where he left off in 2008, reaching a career-high ranking of two at one point in a year where he won six tournaments including two Masters events.
Strauss led from the front to finish as leading run-scorer as England reclaimed the Ashes, while 36-year-old Giggs was crowned the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year as he won his 11th Premier League title with Manchester United.
The shortlist was put together by a panel of 26 sports editors from national and regional newspapers and magazines.
"There are also going to be some wonderful surprises and big moments on the night," added the show's editor Carl Doran.
Last year's event at Liverpool's Echo Arena was watched by a television audience of 9.8m, with triple Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Hoy beating Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and double Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington to the honour.
The other awards to be presented on the night will include:
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