Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel and American swimming sensation Missy Franklin were named Laureus Sportsman and Woman of the Year in a ceremony filled with tributes to those affected by the missing Malaysian Airlines plane.
Malaysia had stepped in to host the ceremony after Rio de Janeiro was dropped amid local reports that the Brazilian state government owed Laureus money.
18-year-old Franklin collected the first award of the night in recognition of her stunning efforts in the pool in 2013 as she became the first woman to win six golds at a single world championships in Barcelona in August.
The four-times Olympic champion gushed at her surprise in winning the award, presented by compatriot and swimming great Mark Spitz, ahead of five others including American tennis player Serena Williams and Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Vettel enjoyed similar dominance of his sport by winning 13 of 19 Formula One races, including the last nine, in 2013 as he took a fourth consecutive world championship and constructors' title for Red Bull.
The German, in Kuala Lumpur ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, beat athletes Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, American basketball player LeBron James and tennis player Rafa Nadal to the prize.
Spaniard Nadal completed a hat-trick of Laureus awards after he took the Comeback of the Year prize after bouncing back from a seven-month absence to win the 2013 French and U.S. Opens as well as five ATP Masters titles.
The All Blacks missed out on the world team of the year award which went to Bayern Munich after the German football side completed a treble by winning the Bundesliga, Champions League and German Cup.
MotoGP champion Marc Marquez took the Breakthrough of the Year prize after taking the title in his rookie season.
Marie Bochet, the French paralympic skier, was named sportsperson of the year with a disability, with Jamie Bestwick named World Action Sportsperson of the Year.