Cousins, instead, has fought back to become a crucial piece for the Warriors as they enter Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, ABC) against the Toronto Raptors tied at one game apiece.
"I know the feeling of like, you know, this might be it. You know?" Cousins told ESPN's Rachel Nichols in an interview on The Jump on Wednesday. "So every chance I get to be on the floor, I'm gonna leave it on the floor. Because, you know, this is a game I've played my entire life and I've grown to love since I was a kid.
"And, you know, as much as I loved it then, I love it now. And I know how fast it can be taken away. It can be gone with the snap of a finger."
Cousins suffered what many within the organization feared was a season-ending quad tear in Game 2 of the Warriors' first-round series against the LA Clippers on April 15. And that was after he didn't play his first game of the season until Jan. 18 after spending almost an entire year rehabbing from an Achilles injury.
"I would be lying to say I didn't really have to [fight to get back so soon]," Cousins said of the quad tear. "Like, I had to dig deep. I had to do some soul-searching and, you know, throughout both injuries, it was times where I just -- you know, like, 'Forget it.' Like, I'll just take my time with it and whatever happens, happens. And f---, I just couldn't go out that way."
Cousins said he struggled to get into the right frame of mind to get back on the court.
"I was just ready to quit," Cousins said. "Like, throw the towel in. ... Human nature is the first thing. It's like, 'Why? Why me? Why now? What did I do wrong? Why do I deserve this?' And that's not always the case. It's usually [that] it's repaying you for the next moment.
"This is you putting your armor on. Slowly but surely. Because your next moment's gonna be even tougher."
After playing just eight minutes in Game 1 against the Raptors, Cousins started Game 2 on Sunday night and was a force, with 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes during a 109-104 victory.
"That's what it's about," Cousins said. "Leaving it all on the floor and trying to make the best play and the right play every possession. And I think we, as a team, did that in Game 2 and we were the better team that night."
ESPN's Nick Friedell contributed to this report.