The pair join six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, Athletics World Championship gold medallists Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Wales rugby union captain Alun Wyn Jones on the shortlist.
Stokes became a national hero when his man-of-the-match display helped England beat New Zealand in a dramatic World Cup final at Lord’s in July, and then played one of the greatest Test innings in history, scoring 135 not out, to complete a remarkable one-wicket victory over Australia in the Third Ashes Test at Headingley.
Sterling was part of the Manchester City side which won a domestic treble, while also excelling for England in their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign. The 24-year-old, who was named Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, has also played a front-line role in tackling racism in the sport.
Previous winner Hamilton secured his sixth world title at the US Grand Prix in Texas, moving just one behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven wins.
Asher-Smith became the first British woman to win a major global sprint title as she took gold in the 200m in Doha, while also winning silver in the 100m and 4x100m relay. She also broke her own British record in both individual events and won the 100m Diamond League title.
Johnson-Thompson produced the performance of her life to topple defending world and Olympic champion Nafi Thiam to win gold in the heptathlon at the same championships. The 26-year-old managed PBs in four of her seven events en route to breaking Jessica Ennis-Hill’s British record.
Wyn Jones, the only non-English athlete on the shortlist, was player of the tournament as he captained Wales to Grand Slam success in the Six Nations, before also leading his country to the semi-finals of the World Cup, becoming the second-most capped player in international history in the process.
The winner will be announced at the end of a public vote, during next month's awards ceremony in Aberdeen.