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Legends in the Making In the galaxy of sports these are the 20 brightest young stars -- those with the talent and charisma to take them all the way to the top

OF THE many characteristics that define a legend, one stands above
all others: endurance. So assembling the following roster of 20
''future legends'' was not unlike projecting a marathon winner when
the runners are at the five-mile mark. How can we, making our choices
near the end of the 20th century, know the young athletes whose
names will resonate deep into the 21st? The answer, of course, is
that we can't make promises -- but we do feel certain that these are
the athletes of greatest promise. To begin with, some have already
made a mark. At 25, Dallas Cowboy running back Emmitt Smith is a
proud owner of three NFL rushing titles, and he has a searing desire
to seize at least as many more. Shaquille O'Neal, the 7 ft. 1 in.,
303-pound center of the Orlando Magic, is one of the most dominating
players in the NBA and has become a marketing icon in the process,
and he's only 23.
For others, the sheer magnitude of their talent, coupled with
their youth, figures to propel them to surpassing feats. An average
of 44 home runs over the next 13 years is not an impossible rate for
fledgling sluggers Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas, who by belting
that many would join Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth as members in the elite
700 Club. No male tennis player has won the Grand Slam since Rod
Laver in 1969, but Pete Sampras, 23, has the talent and temperament
to do it. Boxer Oscar De La Hoya has set a goal of winning
championships in an unprecedented six weight classes by the time he
is 28 -- at 22, he has already won two.
And then there are those who have just begun to shine, but who
have the skills and commitment to make them worthy choices. Once you
have seen rookie Grant Hill of the Detroit Pistons gathering in an
alley-oop, or 24-year-old Pavel Bure of the Vancouver Canucks
stickhandling on a breakaway, or Marion Jones, 19, of North Carolina
running the curve in the 200, you'll know you have witnessed
something rare and lasting. As we look to the new millennium, we will
watch their legends grow.