Phelps stands 10 medals clear of the next most successful Olympian, gymnast Larisa Latynina.
American swimming legend Michael Phelps will be given the BBC Sports Personality lifetime achievement award on Sunday after crowning his incredible career with five Olympic gold medals in Rio.
Phelps took his record Olympic haul to 23 golds and 28 medals in all, claiming individual 200 metres butterfly and medley titles and three relay triumphs.
Phelps also won silver in the 100m butterfly, with his performances in Brazil justifying his decision to come out of retirement.
The 31-year-old stands 10 medals clear of the next most successful Olympian, gymnast Larisa Latynina who won 18 medals for the Soviet Union from 1956 to 1964.
"I'm thrilled to receive the prestigious Sports Personality lifetime achievement award and follow in the footsteps of so many sporting greats," Phelps said.
"It is a fitting way to end what has been an unbelievable year for me and I'm looking forward to what will be a great night."
Previous winners of the award include footballers George Best, Pele, Bobby Charlton and David Beckham.
Sunday's ceremony will also crown the BBC Sports Personality of the year, with Wimbledon and Olympic champion Andy Murray the favourite after rising to the top of the world rankings last month.