Broad or Dettori would be worthy winners not just for stellar individual performances this year but for careers that stand comparison for both achievement and longevity with anyone in the history of their sports.
Had England won the Ashes, as they really should, then the overall case for Broad would probably have been unanswerable. As it is, Dettori, who was third in Sports Personality of the Year some 27 years ago in 1996, is probably more deserving following what we had thought was an extraordinary finale at the age of 52. A farewell tour that included wins in two Classics, the Gold Cup and the Champion Stakes has since been prolonged and he will ride on, largely in America, next year.
That leaves Johnson-Thompson, who would be my pick, not just for winning a second world heptathlon title in a truly global sport like athletics but for the manner of her comeback following four years of doubts after a career-threatening achilles tendon injury on her take-off left leg.
…and Jude Bellingham should have been on the shortlist
The howls of indignation over who is left off the list can already be heard. It was certainly better when there was a free vote without the BBC using a panel to narrow down the options.
Britain’s swimmers, who have quietly enjoyed another fantastic year, will certainly feel aggrieved after Ben Proud also missed out last year, despite establishing himself as the world’s fastest front-crawl sprinter. Matt Richards is the most unfortunate this time after winning a World Championship double in the 200m freestyle and relay this summer at the age just of 20. He has the potential to be a major star at next year’s Olympics.
Then there is Jude Bellingham, who has taken European football by storm this year with his star performances for Real Madrid, as well as Josh Kerr, who did not just win the World 1,500m Championships but beat one of the sport’s all-time greats in a dramatic head-to-head finish with Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen.