At a ceremony before 750 guests Sunday in Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg the pair made jokes and said they were grateful for the recognition by 1,500 journalists.
“Thanks to the sports journalists,” Nowitzki said jokingly via satellite video link. “You have proven for the first time that you understand something about basketball.”
Both towering figures in the German sports scene, this is Nowitzki’s first time being selected for the honour but Neuner’s second. She also received the prize in 2007.
Nowitzki, 33, and originally from Bavaria, just beat out 24-year-old Formula One World Championship driver Sebastian Vettel for the award.
A standout in the US National Basketball Association, the 2.13 metre tall Nowitzki won a Most Valuable Player award in 2007 and has led his Dallas Mavericks to 11 playoff appearances, including a championship title this year.
Nowitzki has also played for the German national basketball team since 1999, winning a bronze medal at the 2002 FIBA World Championship.
The 24-year-old Neuner, who is also a Bavarian, has won three medals at the Olympics, including two golds, earned 13 Biathlon World Championship medals and has won more than two-dozen World Cup races.
She announced earlier this month that she is retiring from competitive sports at the end of this winter season.
Last year’s Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund was also recognised with the journalists’ “Team of the Year” award.
The squad has won seven German championships and one UEFA Champions Cup since being formed in 1909.